State of Our Watersheds: Shoreline Modifications Detrimental to Salmon Habitat

Of all the Puget Sound counties, between 2005 and 2014, Mason County had the largest amount of armored shoreline developed on its waterfront properties.

More than 200 hydraulic project approvals were issued during that time period, resulting in 1.6 miles of armored shoreline, while only 714 feet of armoring were removed.

Armored shoreline is an issue for nearshore habitat, which provides a space for salmonids to rear and forage, and is continually being impacted, according to the most recent State of Our Watersheds Report, released by Northwest Treaty Tribes.

Bulkheads, fill, roads, highways, docks and piers are all examples of shoreline development and directly affect salmon habitat needed for migration, rearing and refuge.

An example of shoreline modifications.

When juvenile salmonids enter the marine environment, the quality of the estuarine, salt marsh, eelgrass and shallow water nearshore habitats is critical for their survival.

The Hood Canal Coordinating Council’s Salmon Habitat Recovery Strategy has identified habitat in the nearshore marine waters as a high priority. The intent is to protect and restore chinook and chum habitat, and the watershed processes that support and maintain that habitat. The Mid-Hood Canal Chinook Recovery Planning Chapter identified habitat in watershed and estuaries as key to recovery of productive, sustainable natural chinook salmon.

From the report:

One of the objectives of the Skokomish Chinook Recovery Plan is to “protect from further degradation the structural elements that contribute to nearshore habitat forming processes and associated key habitats.”

A recovery plan framework objective is “to restore nearshore habitat, the estuary, and associated floodplain habitat and function.”

Needless to say, with over 35% of the shoreline being in a modified condition, continued, focused efforts will be necessary to reach these objectives.